The sun is out and the snow is getting soft, which, by all accounts, indicates it must be time for spring skiing. So, here’s the lowdown on where to get the springtime goods at Tahoe resorts.
Ryan Salm | Alpine Meadows
Start your spring day at Alpine Meadows with a few fast warm-up runs on the Roundhouse lift, which accesses a plethora of groomed, blue runs that are edgeable even first thing in the morning. After that, head up and over the top to the Sherwood Express where south-facing runs are already starting to soften in the morning sun. Wait until midday to check out Scott Chair, as those runs need a little more time.
The unusually long-named Chute That Seldom Slides has good coverage and offers up mellow spring bumps to get your legs moving. You might even head over to Promised Land where open corn snow fields and tree-specked glades await. From groomers to steeps and back again, Alpine offers a variety of terrain that will keep things interesting all day long.
Rami Hanafi | Boreal
Springtime is the perfect time for park and pipe riding, and Boreal is the place to do it. With four terrain parks and a superpipe, you are practically guaranteed to not get bored.
A selection of small, medium and large parks cater to everyone from beginners to pros. I personally prefer the small to medium parks between the Accelerator and Castle Peak chairs. And, no matter what people say, there is no such thing as too old to hit a jump, especially in the spring when landings are slushy and soft. Just try not to be intimidated by the 8-year-olds.
If parks aren’t your cup of tea, venture over to the Flying Dutchman chair where lines are short and the snow in the trees is practically untouched. But every now and again, I recommend a lap on Accelerator just to enjoy the show.
Diamond Peak is the place to beat the crowds and feel like a local. Not only do they offer events every weekend, like wine tasting and fresh corduroy at sunset, but thanks to mostly west-facing slopes, the sun shines down on you all afternoon, which is what Tahoe spring skiing is all about.
Crystal Ridge off the Crystal Express is a long, wide groomer with plenty of sun, soft snow and postcard views of Lake Tahoe. It’s a blue run with enough changes in pitch and little jumps off the sides to keep it interesting.
My personal choice, though, is to hang a right off of Crystal Express dropping into Golden Eagle Bowl. The small bowl with nicely spaced trees is an off-piste treat with an opportunity for pristine corn. Whether you choose to be on-piste or off at Diamond Peak, chances are you will have a run all to yourself at least once during your ski day, so take that moment to relish the feeling that you found a stash no one else knows about.
Take advantage of the morning sun by starting your spring days on Mt. Rose at the Winters Creek Lodge. Sun starts shining on Sunrise Bowl at, you guessed it, sunrise. From the Blazing Zephyr lift, Silver Dollar to either Sunrise or Slide Bowl is a nice, long blue run perfect for a warm-up. Then, if you seek out slush bumps like I do, check out Washoe Zephyr. No waist-deep moguls here, just fun little spring bumps to bounce and jump off of.
Once the sun moves to the other side of the mountain, follow it to the Northwest Magnum chair. From there, you can drop into some of the Chutes that are getting sun (most receive little direct sunlight). Cutthroat has a good amount of snow in it and a steep enough drop-in to give you a little rush as you push off the edge. Considering where you started, it’s only fitting to finish out your day on the slushy bumps of Sunset, one of the last runs to lose the afternoon sun.
Bill Stevenson | Northstar California
If a ski patroller, a race coach and an Olympic gold medalist all say it’s where to find the best spring turns, then it must be where to find the best spring turns. The run everyone is talking about is the Rapids: a nice, long, black diamond mogul run right under the Backside Express at Northstar.
The ski patroller I chatted with declared it “the reason people love spring skiing.” The Rapids is wide and the moguls are not what I’d call small, but somehow soft, slushy snow dissolves the intimidation of a mogul field. Stick to the sides for shallower, more manageable bumps, or head down the middle if you like them deep. Either way, it’s a leg burner that is well worth the workout. But save the Rapids until mid-afternoon when the snow (and your legs) have had a chance to warm up.
Until then, enjoy some runs on the front side, which gets sun earlier in the day. Pioneer, off the Zephyr Express, is a long, blue groomer with a gentle pitch and mid-morning corn. From the Comstock Express, head to the runs on lookers’ right. Groomers like Springboard and Ax Handle offer a steeper pitch, then take The Plunge for some smallish warm-up bumps. The springtime snow at Northstar is definitely worth skiing front to back.
Keoki Flagg | Squaw Valley
Get the most out of a sunny spring day at Squaw Valley by jumping on the Headwall Express and skiing right over the top of the ridge to the aptly named Sun Bowl. The bumps there are small and soft, and the sunshine plentiful. Once out of the bowl, Horse Trails and Bullet offer fun descents, and if you happen to go a few days after a storm, as I did, you might still score some soft, winter snow hidden in here since these ones get little sun.
Wait until later in the day to hit KT-22, it needs longer to soften up. When it does, Chute 75 still offers some good snow and a chance to work on navigating the steep and narrow. For those wanting less of a challenge, Mountain Run is your long, almost-top-to-bottom cruiser.
For a uniquely Squaw Valley ski experience, throw your bikini or trunks on under your gear for a dip in the hot tub at High Camp, then hit the ski-thru at the worlds’ first ski-in/ski-out Starbucks.
Cath Howard | Sugar Bowl
Be one of the first to experience spring conditions on Sugar Bowl’s Crow’s Nest Peak. Opened this season, the Crow’s Peak Lift accesses both groomed and ungroomed runs offering fresh terrain even for longtime Sugar Bowl-ers. Not that the old terrain is anything to balk at.
Disney Meadow and Rahlves’ Run are skier favorites for corn-y spring groomers while Nancy’s Couloir and the resort’s namesake, Sugar Bowl, offer soft, off-piste snow with fun obstacles like rocks and trees to ride over and around.
All the way on the other side of the resort, three peaks away from Crow’s Nest, the Summit Chair accesses steep, expert terrain that visitors are not exactly flocking to. This is all the better for those of us who want to ski it. If you’re willing to put in a little traversing, the bowls between Railroad Run and Century Club can offer run after run of springtime freshies. With four peaks and numerous faces to choose from, Sugar Bowl will likely have quite a bit of skiable terrain well into the spring season.
Spring skiing tips
No matter where you decided to get your spring snow fix, keep a few things in mind to ensure the ultimate spring skiing experience:
Don’t skimp on the sunscreen. High altitude combined with reflective snow will toast your face and leave you looking like a red raccoon quicker than you can say UVA.
Wax on. Spring snow is sticky and skiing is more fun when you can slide. If you’ve been out more than a few times since your last wax, have someone iron on a quick layer before you head out.
Follow the sun. Depending on which way the mountain faces, certain runs will get sun earlier in the day than others. Head where the sun is shining to ensure the softest spring snow underfoot.
When in doubt, ask a patroller. Ski patrollers know the mountain like the back of their glove. They know what’s open, what’s not, what has good coverage and where to avoid the ice. Ask a patroller which run you should take, and they will rarely steer you wrong.
There are still plenty of good turns to be had out there. A refreshing cocktail of sun and snow is the perfect way to top off the winter, and ours is just being served up. Enjoy.